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Warning Norfolk schools for key worker children during coronavirus may not all be open for Monday

PUBLISHED: 15:01 20 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:01 20 March 2020

Sara Tough, director of children services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Sara Tough, director of children services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Copyright (c) Julian Claxton Photography 2017.

Council bosses have said they cannot promise that the children of ‘critical workers’ who will still be taught in classrooms will go to their usual school - and they might not all be up and running in time for Monday.

Thousands of schoolchildren went to school for the last time for an indefinite period on Friday, after the government ordered them to close as part of the measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

But the government has announced that children of a group of key workers will still be able to go to school to help their parents do their crucial jobs, along with vulnerable pupils.

Only one parent needs to be a “critical worker” for their children to be allowed to still attend school, but the advice remains that those children who can be cared for at home, should be cared for at home.

There was frustration the government did not confirm the list of those workers - which includes health and social care workers, police, farmers, social workers, firefighters and supermarket delivery drivers - until late on Thursday night.

That has hampered the planning by Norfolk County Council and the county’s 422 schools for how many pupils will still be heading into the classroom.

But Sara Tough, executive director of children’s services, said: “I pay tribute to the children’s services staff who have worked overnight to produce an electronic form and letter to schools regarding key workers, which we’re updating now we’ve received the government guidance this morning.

“The schools have also been amazing and have worked around the clock to prepare for such a situation.

“This will provide schools with the information they need about how many parents and children require places and we are working very closely with the schools so we can ensure children who need a place will have one.”

MORE: Who are the key workers?

But she sounded a note of caution over people’s expectations and how quickly the new system would be up and running.

She warned: “We cannot promise absolutely that children of key workers will go to the school they already attend and we can’t necessarily promise everything will start on Monday – but it will start within the next few days.”

And she said: “This is not, now, about formal education – it is about providing the relevant care to keep our essential services open and supporting vulnerable children.”

There were also reports of confusion at some schools over whether one or two parents had to be key workers. However a cabinet office spokesman said it was one and schools should be following that guidance.

Those schools which do take pupils will be expected to stay open over the Easter holiday. However, the council is working with schools to create a county wide strategy for childcare provision across the county which will potentially involve many schools and other key community-based providers.

The council is also working with school leaders to plan for what happens to teaching staff who are no longer teaching in schools. The council said it might be that staff are redeployed to other schools, as and when necessary.

Schools have been arranging on-line sessions for the children who will be at home.

The Eastern Multi-Academy Trust, which runs a number of academies in King’s Lynn and Thetford said they would be open during “this unprecedented period for parents who are key workers and vulnerable pupils”. They said in a statement: “Our teachers and leaders are working hard to ensure the provision of education both for pupils who attend the academies and those at home. This will continue throughout the period of the closure – however long that may be.

“We would like to assure parents and the community that, at this time, we have no confirmed cases of coronavirus within our staff or student body.

“Our aim is to ensure parents are supported as much as possible and pupils continue to receive an education. The trust would like to put on record our thanks to our marvellous staff who are pulling out all the stops to do this and to the parents and pupils who are working with us at this difficult time.”

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